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20.02.2016

Report about refugees in Greece

By: Anna Fillipou

Last weekend I have been together with Nikiforos to Lesvos for three
days. In the last 4-5 days there is a great "silence" in Lesvos. But a
tense silence, like that just before the earthquake. Few refugees have
remained on the island and did not arrive at all new boats. Just
announced that NATO frigates arrive, "suddenly" the flows have been
controled. Why now; Why Turks "couldn’t" control the flow earlier and
let so many people make the dangerous passage in the Aegean?

About the overall geopolitical environment in the region, since 3-4
days, the Turkish armed forces are bombing positions of Syrian Kurdish
fighters, describing them as a terrorist organization. Turkey fears
the possible strengthening of the Kurds and the creation of a Kurdish
state in the region. On the other hand, the Syrian Kurds fighting
against the jihadists of the Islamic State and have managed in recent
years to release important territories in Syria.

At the same time, Russia continues bombing in Syria, NATO is in the
Aegean Sea and everybody is afraid that may some error handling will
have serious consequences ... The NATO warships are here to prevent
not only the trafficers but also refugees themselves to cross the
Greek-Turkish sea border. European countries find it difficult to
accept new applications for asylum but without putting an end to war.
It is obvious that the EU is unable to handle the greatest wave of
refugees from the Second World War.

Volunteers and coordinators of voluntary groups in Lesbos and
generally in Greece are very worried that NATO's involvement will
bring, among other things, more victims. People will not stop coming,
they say, all they will do is to choose the most dangerous roads. Come
night, in bad weather, to tear their own boats .... Only if we stop
the war or if registrations take place in Turkey and refugees can
travel directly to the destination countries the flows in the Aegean
will stop.

Two days before we left to Lesvos, me and Nikiforos have participated
in meeting about refugees, together with many voluntary and
non-governmental groups working in Northern Greece and specifically in
Oidomeni, on the border with Macedonia. The situation on the northern
border of Greece is very difficult, because of the Visegrad countries
in cooperation with Austria exert massive pressure to close the
borders. Currently rises and the second fence length 35 km in the
Macedonia border.

In case of closing the northern border there is a great fear of
exclusion of tens or hundreds of thousands of refugees in Greece.
Today this possibility is considered inevitable. Greece has taken a
disproportionate burden compared to the potential of the country. The
government has committed to have 50,000 care places by mid-February.
30,000 entered to create the state and 20,000 by the United Nations
for Refugees. In a few days we should have completed the work and for
the 5 hot spots. The audit will take place in the coming days.

In connection with our work seems that very soon structures that are
not officially recognized, such as "The better days for Moria camp"
will close. About PIKPA - Village of All Together, it is also still
uncertain how to continue the work. Volunteers say they will do
everything to continue to offer work - rather, in cooperation with the
official authorities. Currently camps are created throughout Greece,
which will accommodate for longer periods of time many thousands of
refugees and migrants.

Alongside refugee, to get a general picture of what is happening in
this country at the moment, there is a growing pressure of lenders to
Greece and within the country, the social conflicts become fester.
Farmers block the roads, people are protesting. Demonstrations against
the insurance and tax messures are massive and dynamic. Others want
withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone, others stay in the European
Union, there is general confusion. The Greek society is angry about
what is happening, frightened by the war around the borders and
threats for a long war and simultaneously confused about what is to
blame and mainly what should be done.

To the question, how do we continue, all volunteer groups agree that
we have to wait at least two weeks and then see how the conditions
will be. If the Village of All Together continues the work we can also
continue cooperating with them in Lesvos. Otherwise, there is always
the possibility to work with groups in Northern Greece and to provide
assistance in the camps. I suggest that we wait and continue to
network with volunteer groups and non-governmental organizations. I
also suggest to start to think about the need and the possible next
steps, perhaps alternatives as EDE, small pilot programs etc.

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